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Conference sets up storm recovery fund, operations center (Aug. 18, 2004)

Conference sets up storm recovery fund, operations center (Aug. 18, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference sets up storm recovery fund, operations center

Aug. 18, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0142}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham**

WINTER PARK — Aloma United Methodist Church in Central Florida's Winter Park community was one of about 40 conference churches to date filing claims for damage to their facilities caused by Hurricane Charley Aug. 13. The church's steeple blew off and the sanctuary's roof was damaged during the storm. Photo by Don Youngs, Photo #04-0067.
ORLANDO — Days after Hurricane Charley made landfall in Florida, killing 16 people and causing billions of dollars in damage from Ft. Myers to Daytona Beach, the Florida Conference has established a special fund and operations center to help affected communities.

Meeting with representatives from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Aug. 16 at Faith United Methodist Church here, Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker and conference disaster response team leaders decided to set up a special fund to assist victims called the "Florida Storm Recovery Fund" Conference Special #605. Its monies will be used to provide grants directly to families and individuals, pay for supplies and equipment, and pay a staff to oversee recovery efforts, according to a letter sent by Whitaker to conference clergy and laity late yesterday.

"It is our hope that the 'Florida Storm Recovery Fund' will provide much of the money that will be needed to assist people in our communities," Whitaker said. "UMCOR will assist this effort by making additional funds available from its general appeal known as 'Hurricanes 2004,' Advance #982410."

UMCOR had already arranged to provide the conference with a $10,000 emergency grant as of the meeting date, Tom Hazelwood told the group. Hazelwood is UMCOR's director of emergency services.

Conference leaders also set up the Florida Storm Recovery Center yesterday at the Florida Conference Center in Lakeland as the operations center for the conference's response. Hazelwood and other UMCOR staff have already begun working there to help disaster response team members direct the conference's efforts. One of the main responsibilities of center workers will be matching churches and groups wanting to volunteer with projects in affected communities. A concern expressed at the Aug. 16 meeting was the ability to put volunteers eager to begin work into areas where they can be most effective.

"They're eager to get started...but we have to have a target place for them to go," said the Rev. Tom Norton, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg District's disaster response coordinator.

Norton said yesterday district coordinators and superintendents are still in the process of assessing the extent of damage in their communities because a number of areas, particularly rural neighborhoods, are still without electricity and a way to communicate with district offices.

"We have 5,700 square miles of disaster. Trying to get reports out of that has been incredible," he said. "It's going to take another five to 10 days of people assessing and reporting."

Norton is assisting with conferencewide efforts so the Rev. David Harris, the Florida Conference's disaster response coordinator, can focus his efforts on the Arcadia community, one of the hardest hit because of it's close proximity to the hurricane's landfall in the Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda areas of Florida's southwest coast. Harris is pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church there, which is serving as a point of operations to the area.

At the meeting the Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder outlined the conference's recovery efforts and said the response will focus on three priority areas: repairing church property, ministering to clergy and their families and caregivers, and assisting communities. Several groups are already in place to begin working on the second priority, including the conference's newly formed Shade and Fresh Water ministry, which provides opportunities for clergy and their families to deal with life situations and rejuvenate, and conference pastors who have gone through critical incidence training.

Burkholder reported damage to church property is not as great a concern as the other two priorities because the conference's self-insurance program will provide funds for repairs. She said adjusters have been on alert and working in the field to assess damages.

"We've got the damage covered," Jim Severance, the conference's risk manager, said today. "Our biggest problem is finding qualified contractors."

Severance said damage has generally been to roofs, with tree debris causing holes and structural damage and wind ripping off panels and shingles. Churches along the I-4 corridor, particularly in the Central Florida area, are also dealing with substantial debris cleanup from downed or snapped trees, many of them decades-old oaks.

Severance said First United Methodist Church, Kissimmee, in the Central Florida area, was one of the hardest hit, with damage to one building's second story roof that caused leaks reaching the first floor.

About 40 churches have reported claims, with damages estimated at $150,000 in the middle range and $400,000 at the high end, according to Peter Bookholt, an adjuster and contractor voluntarily assessing damages across the state and a member of the conference's risk management committee. He said it's too early to give an estimate for total damages, but claims have varied from "missing shingles to devastated."

Damage to churches in Arcadia was "not too bad," but several in Punta Gorda had damage estimated in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, including Christ and Cleveland United Methodist Churches, according to Bookholt. Water damage is a big issue, he said. "When you lose a roof and blow out windows, it really makes a mess."

Grace United Methodist Church, Cape Coral, in the Ft. Myers District received significant damage to its roof and interior and lost its steeple. Aloma and Shingle Creek United Methodist churches in the Orland District also lost steeples.

Severance cautions churches not to complete repairs on their own. He says the first step is for a contractor to secure the roof to prevent further damage or leakage, as well as set up dryers and dehumidifiers to lessen water damage. The second step is roof repair.

Severance said churches should make an inventory of all damaged contents, from Bibles to candles to music, which are covered by insurance. He also encourages churches to document hours worked by members and volunteers clearing debris, adding those hours can be paid as an insurance claim at minimum wage.

ORLANDO — Hurricane Charley uprooted trees, cars and families Aug. 13 when it cut through the Cloverlawn neighborhood here. Trees blown down or splinterd by the storm fell on houses and powerlines, making some homes unlivable and forcing families to find places to stay to escape the heat. The conference is working to assess the assistance residents  across the state will need in the storm's aftermath. Photo by Julie Jo Adams, Photo #04-0068.

Meeting the needs of people in the community will depend on the assessments coming in from the districts. The conference is "grasping the scope of opportunities to be witnesses to the love of Jesus Christ to the world," Burkholder said.

UMCOR field staff person Nina Martin, who also attended the meeting, suggested coordinating with the American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency to utilize their data on community needs "to shape this ministry as part of a whole community."

Hazelwood said much of the community information will come from case management with people affected. "It's the one-on-one ministry with the family where we find out all of their needs and link them with the resources available," he said. "Case management is the backbone of the whole ministry."

UMCOR will be providing assistance with case management, in addition to funding where needed. "We are committed to helping you in any way we can," Hazelwood said. 

Florida Conference United Methodists are encouraged to send contributions to "Florida Storm Recovery Fund" Conference Special #605 to their local church. Church offerings should be sent to the Florida Conference Treasurer, The United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802.

Individuals or groups interested in coordinating a group to assist with Hurricane Charley relief and recovery efforts should contact the Florida Storm Recovery Center at 1-800-282-8011, extension 149. The Florida Conference Storm Recovery Team can be contacted by e-mail at

For conference news and updates related to Hurricane Charley go to


This article relates to Florida Conference Disaster Response.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
** Parham is editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.